1. Q.I have heard that almost anything is now possible in the plant kingdom by using biotechnology to combine numerous desirable characteristics into "super plants" of the future. Why can't scientists make a completely pest resistant plant so that use of poisonous pesticides can be eliminated?
A. Science is closer to what you are describing than you can imagine. Using methods of biotechnology, a company in Maryland has created a corn plant that produces its own pesticide to fight the destructive corn borer. Crop Genetics International has just completed its first year of trials and gathered evidence that the plants produce sufficient toxin to kill the corn borer, a pest estimated to infest 40 million acres of corn in the U.S. every year.
To create the Frankensteinian plant, scientists proved that a bacterium named CLAVIBACTER CYNODONTIS could both live and work within the confines of the corn plant and then found a strain of BACILLUS THRUINGIENSIS that could produce the toxin necessary to slay the borer. Next, using recombinant DNA techniques, they put the two bacteria together and the result was an organism that could live in corn and kill the borer, without hurting the plants. So the age of the KILLER PLANTS has arrived! But the cost of developing such "super plants" is astronomical and the successes have been largely elusive.
More information on biotechnology can be found elsewhere in Aggie Horticulture.